New GM Crops – New Debate

April 8, 2005

New transgenic crops (often called genetically modified or GM crops) are on the way: Commercially grown GM crops capable of producing medicine, industrial chemicals, starch and plastic, as well as transgenic crops developed just for ornamental purpose. Within the next 10 years, more new GM crops can be fully developed and ready to be cultivated in open fields.

For several years now, in Denmark as well as in other European countries, a heated debate has been going on about genetically modified foods. Amongst others, the debate has resulted in legislation about the planting of genetically modified crops, their co-existence with conventional and organic crops, as well as labelling and tracing of the crops, on EU as well as on national level. The debate leading up to the introduction of laws was especially focused on GM crops commercialized for fodder and for human consumption.

The development of these new GM crops, however, give rise to new debate:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of the new GM crops in relation to health and environmental issues?
  • What are the economic prospects and consequences of growing the new GM crops?
  • How will Danish citizens asses these crops and which pros and cons will they focus on?

To examine the above issues, the Danish Board of Technology nominated a citizens jury consisting of 16 laymen who – during the spring 2005 – gave their assessment of the new GM crops. The citizen jury was presented with questions, which they together took a position to during the period of 28 April to 2 May 2005. During these 5 days, the jury met with invited experts to discuss advantages and disadvantages of the new crops. Informed by the dialogue with many different experts and stakeholders, the members of the jury made up their own minds and subsequently presented their assessments on 2 May in the Danish Parliament. Below is a link to their final document and a newsletter reporting from the final conference as well.

A planning group has been appointed to assist the Danish Board of Technology in the planning of the project and the formulation of the questions for the jury. Also, the planning group will participate in the preparation of information material to the citizens jury, as well as in the selection of the experts and stakeholders meeting with the jury.
The members of the planning group are:

  • Hans Christian Bruun Hansen, Institute of the Royal Veterinary Agricultural University
  • Erling Jelsøe, Dep.of Environment, Technology & Social Studies, Roskilde University
  • Rikke Bagger Jørgensen, Risø National Laboratory
  • Rikke Lundsgaard, Danish Society for Nature Conversation
  • Søren Mikkelsen, Danish Institute of Agricultural Science
  • Finn Okkel, Poalis (plant based biotech company)